– By Bettis Rainsford –
A decade ago the Town of Edgefield undertook its Main Street streetscape project in which the unsightly power lines on Main Street were put underground and trees planted. This project, which cost over a half million dollars, created a spectacular entrance into our town. The vista from the eastern end of Main Street looking toward the Court House in the distance, framed by the avenue of oak trees, is incredibly beautiful. Interestingly, this same vista existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the beauty of it was widely commented on by visitors to Edgefield. However, the installation of power poles and lines and the cutting down of the trees during the first half of the 20th century destroyed it. Thus, the streetscape project of a decade ago was one of the greatest of our Town’s recent achievements.
It is therefore amazing that citizens witnessed on Friday a new unsightly power pole being erected on Main Street near the intersection of Hart Street across from Piedmont Tech which is apparently going to hold a line which will cross Main Street from an existing power pole on Mims Street.
We are informed by our mayor that this pole is a temporary one, being erected to “back feed” the power on the north side of Main Street for two purposes: (1) to prevent a possible power outage caused by a potential ice storm and (2) to maintain power while the power poles on the line along Simkins Street are being replaced. He tells us in an e-mail that he has reached a verbal agreement with Scott Neely, a manager with the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, that this pole and the power line across Main Street will be taken down when the work on the Simkins Street line is completed in two months’ time – that is, by the third week of March. Thereafter, when the Town enters into a new franchise agreement with SCE&G, SCE&G will make the cross connection to the north side of town with an underground connection at its cost, which is estimated to be $60,000. It is a shame that the underground connection is not being done at this time, rather than marring our Main Street vista with the temporary overhead connection.
We certainly want to insure that all parts of our town have reliable electrical power and that no one suffers through an extended outage because of inadequate design of the power system. However, when the streetscape was done a decade ago, SCE&G was fully involved in the planning, design and construction of the project. Had a cross-connection been necessary, it should have been done at that time. Thus, in our view, SCE&G unquestionably has the responsibility to make this underground cross connection, which they say is necessary, at its cost.
Under state law, electrical power companies enjoy a monopoly in supplying power, and, as a result, they have the responsibility to ensure the reliability of that power. Further, they should not be allowed to destroy the beautiful streetscape for which our Town spent over half a million dollars, and which has done so much to improve the attractiveness of our community.
Much of Edgefield’s potential for economic vitality depends upon our building our reputation among tourists, potential new residents and other visitors as one of the most attractive small towns in the nation. In recent decades, we have done much to achieve that goal. Let us not allow short-sighted and short-cut decisions to spoil the work we have already done.